Please also visit : KATAKAMI.COM
The main Republican task will be framing the issues for 2012.
January 05, 2011 (KATAKAMI / WSJ) — John Boehner takes the Speaker’s gavel from Nancy Pelosi today, and the transfer represents much more than a change in partisan control. It marks perhaps the sharpest ideological shift in the House in 80 years, and it could set the stage for a meaningful two-year debate over the role of government and the real sources of economic prosperity.
We say “could” because much depends on which Republican Party chooses to show up. Will it be the incumbent-protection and business interest-group machine that prevailed under the final years of Tom DeLay? Or will it remember that the real sources of it power and legitimacy are the tea party activists and independents who voted for Republicans in November? So far the signs suggest the latter, but the forces of Beltway inertia are formidable and will weigh on the drive to change the politics of K Street perks and payoffs.
Merely in taking the gavel, Mr. Boehner will fulfill his most important mandate, which is stopping the damage done by the two Pelosi Congresses. To adapt the Hippocratic Oath, first there will be no more economic harm. The GOP has already achieved a major victory on this score by preventing the tax increase that had been scheduled for this week.
That success alone seems to have had a cheering effect on the country’s economic mood, with businesses talking about new investment and investors bidding up stocks. Minority Leader Pelosi are three of the happiest words in the capitalist language.
The two-year tax reprieve was a compromise with President Obama, and there will be other bipartisan opportunities. One will be passing the Panama, Colombia and South Korea trade accords that Democrats ignored. A second will be war funding, and perhaps a third on promoting school choice as part of rewriting the No Child Left Behind Act. There may also be narrow spending cut deals if Mr. Obama concludes he must change his fiscal image from the man who has added $4 trillion to the deficit in two years.
Immigration reform should in theory be possible as well, given the business need for more skilled workers and the desire among immigrant groups for more legal paths to citizenship. It is also in the GOP’s political interest to take the issue off the table. But we fear Mr. Obama will want to play for the Hispanic vote in 2012 by portraying Republicans as anti-immigrant, and too many Republicans are also happy to call any compromise “amnesty” for their own political ends.
We do not expect much other common policy ground. The lesson we draw from the last two years is that Mr. Obama is a determined man of the left whose goal is to redistribute much larger levels of income across society. He may give tactical ground when he has no choice, as he did on taxes to avoid a middle-class tax increase. But he will resist to his last day any major changes to ObamaCare and the other load-bearing walls of the entitlement state. His abiding goal is to reverse Reaganism—permanently.
This means that Republicans should not expect much progress in reforming Social Security or Medicare, and they shouldn’t fall into the trap of proud but pointless votes on either one. Some of our friends on the right are already saying the GOP should march into the fixed bayonets on these programs, even if Senate Democrats are sure to kill their reforms. But one lesson of Newt Gingrich’s failure in 1995 is that such changes can’t be achieved from Capitol Hill amid Presidential opposition, and the GOP should not help Mr. Obama repeat Bill Clinton’s Mediscare campaign of 1996.
This cautious advice does not apply to ObamaCare, which Republicans should do everything in their power to undermine, defund and stigmatize. Mr. Boehner has planned a repeal vote in the House for as early as next week, and Mr. McConnell should quickly get Democrats on record in the Senate.
This will begin to frame the stakes for 2012, and from there the GOP can attack ObamaCare piece by piece. Postpone next year’s tax increase on branded pharmaceuticals and biotech, reform and restore funding for Medicare Advantage, repeal the long-term care insurance program that is already scheduled to be broke within a decade. Such votes will honor GOP campaign promises, continue to educate voters about the bill’s flaws, and perhaps even force Mr. Obama to use a veto or two.
The other advice we’d offer is to keep in mind that Republicans did not run in 2010 to be national accountants. While cutting spending to reduce the deficit, they should keep the political and policy focus on promoting economic growth and private job creation. This should be the larger avowed purpose of their cuts in spending, their scrutiny of new regulations, their proposals for tax reform, or their questioning of the Federal Reserve.
Thanks to the failure of the Obama-Pelosi spending stimulus, the voters are once again listening to Republicans on the economy. They should not cede that ground back by turning into mere deficit scolds.
In his personal modesty and rhetorical restraint, Mr. Boehner seems to understand that Republicans can’t govern from the House. What they can do is stake out a GOP agenda that begins to repair the damage of the Pelosi years, begins to shrink and reform the government, and tees up the debate for 2012. This is the great Republican opportunity of the 112th Congress. (*)